Cape Town - Organisers of the Port Elizabeth leg of the HSBC
Sevens World Series, about to stage their third tournament at Nelson Mandela
Bay Stadium this weekend, are appealing strongly to the local public for
healthy attendances over the two days.
The campaign to swell the gates as much as possible is
unsurprising, as they may already be swimming against a powerful tide in terms
of clinging to the event after next year.
Sport24 has it on very good authority that it will be “all
change” in 2015 ... with an irresistible lobby both at International Rugby
Board and sponsorship level agitating for Cape Town Stadium to grab the South
African baton from then onward.
As things stand, Port Elizabeth, which first hosted the
Sevens in 2011 after George’s nine-year tenure, is due to retain the event
until next year, after which fresh pitches will be invited.
But various factors are conspiring to make a longer hold on
it by the Friendly City highly unlikely, not least the fact that long-time
major sponsor Emirates Airline is recommitting to the Sevens World Series for
several more years.
It is no longer the name sponsor of the SA leg, that mantle
having been taken over by Cell C, but still holds that status for the Emirates
and Scotland ones and remains powerfully synonymous with the World Series as a
A bugbear for them is that they do not fly to either George
or Port Elizabeth, and want the Sevens to go to one of their staple, direct destinations
– Cape Town International Airport boasts two Emirates flights daily.
HSBC is also known to
be impatient about maximising their leveraging potential for the SA leg, which
is only possible if a major centre in the country, with direct fly-in links and
heaviest tourism traffic, takes over the Sevens.
The Mother City, in its
reliable summer weather-wise, fits that bill perfectly.
Making Cape Town Stadium particularly attractive is its
convenient proximity to Waterfront hotels, restaurants, bars and other
attractions – several rugby fields and clubs in the Green Point area also
provide rich potential for tented nearby hospitality facilities and the like.
Although there were some murmurs in sections of the media
when PE won the latest staging rights three years ago that WP Rugby’s pitch for
the Sevens had been complacent, closer to the truth may well be the fact that
there was massive political pressure at the time to give rugby, in broadest
terms, a tangible lift in the Eastern Cape.
That bridge has largely been crossed now – whether PE soon
surrenders the Sevens or not -- with the Kings’ spirited maiden season in Super
Rugby earlier this year and rosy home gates.
Although they have since been relegated, with the Lions the
returning beneficiaries in 2014, SARU has insisted a SANZAR compromise be
reached to allow for the Kings’ restoration under an expanded structure in the
For the moment, PE will not go down without a fight on the
World Sevens Series front.
Rian Oberholzer, managing director of Access Management, the
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium operator, told Sport24 on Tuesday that they were
“well aware” of bigger cities or venues countrywide being keen to seize hosting
“That is why we are asking the public here to vote with
their feet (this weekend). People showed what the city can do in rugby terms
with the way they supported the Kings.
“There are many reasons the Sevens should stay here, just
one being that players have voted this one as their favourite leg of the
Oberholzer, a seasoned former SARFU and SANZAR CEO, said
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium lured almost 40 000 spectators over the two days
last year and the ideal this time, with realistic ticket pricing, would be
close to 30 000 each day.
“I think in South Africa as a whole we haven’t quite grasped
Sevens fully yet from a spectator point of view; we have mainly still been a
XVs country in that regard.
“We at least have two more seasons to show what we can do
(in PE) and SARU and the IRB must then decide what they want to do with the
Sevens further ahead; we must use the next two (tournaments) to make it
impossible to move it.”
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